Can love truly blossom between two people where darkness and deception reign?
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
We are a little more than half-way through “The Twelve Days of Jane” holiday blog event and I am overwhelmed by the positive feedback and support of my readers and the JAFF authors who have contributed to this event. I also feel so grateful to the shop owners who donated Jane Austen creations for all our lovely readers. Please accept my thanks and gratitude for being part of this lovely journey.
When I began publishing Just Jane 1813, I had a vision about what I wanted to communicate through my writing, but my overall plan continues to be shaped by my own growing knowledge, along with my desire to bring fresh ideas and opportunities to my readers, all in the spirit of Jane Austen. Imagine my astonishment and gratitude when Jenetta James offered to write a holiday vignette for Just Jane 1813 readers, based on her successful JAFF book, “Suddenly Mrs. Darcy.”
“Suddenly Mrs. Darcy” is another JAFF book recommended to me right after its release, by my reading friend, Sheila. You see another pattern forming here, don’t you? As I share very similar tastes in JAFF books with Sheila, I followed her advice, which can be very difficult during the workweek, because once again, I found myself immersed in a story too engaging to put down and short enough to fool myself into thinking I could read it faster than I really could. Thank goodness there’s lots of longer JAFF books out there, or I may be foolish enough to attempt to read every book I love in one evening!
Now that I have read “Suddenly Mrs. Darcy” twice, I feel confident in my praise when I say that I believe that Jenetta James is one of the most talented new JAFF writers of 2015. Emotionally charged, filled with a strong sense of voice and containing language that is both poetic in its delivery and precise in its meaning, “Suddenly Mrs. Darcy” is an intimate “Pride and Prejudice” variation, told solely from Elizabeth’s point of view. I believe the use of this singular POV added a tremendous amount of insight and depth into creating a greater understanding of Elizabeth’s character.
From the darkness settled within the corners of her room, we hear Elizabeth’s perspective as she describes her brief existence as the newly married Mrs. Darcy. We feel an immediate intimacy with her, as she bares her concerns and her feelings, regarding this emotionally distant, yet physically close relationship she now shares with Mr. Darcy. Gaining the sense that there is trouble brewing behind the circumstances that have collided to bring this marriage to fruition, the reader feels the need to listen closely in an effort to gain a fuller understanding of her situation, while also keeping an open mind towards uncovering the truths that lie between Elizabeth and Darcy’s convoluted relationship.
The story quickly flashes back to the Netherfield Ball, where we come to know the events that led to Elizabeth and Darcy’s hasty marriage and the days that followed after their wedding. Here, she describes how they travelled to Pemberley, in what seemed like an effort to hide from Elizabeth’s friends and family. We learn about Elizabeth’s early days at Pemberley, as she settles into her new responsibilities as the mistress of a great estate and works simultaneously to establish a relationship with her shy and somewhat awkward new sister, Georgiana and her aloof and mysterious husband, Mr. Darcy.
I loved how Ms. James’ writing made me feel like I was part of this small family, sitting alongside them in the parlour, enjoying the music playing on the pianoforte, while sensing the growing, yet guarded intimacy developing over time between all three of these characters. Ms. James’ use of Elizabeth’s point of view allows us to understand the confusion, along with the struggles, warring inside of Elizabeth, as she tries to reconcile this distant and controlling man with the passionate and attentive lover she gladly welcomes each night into her bed.
Without a confidante to share her worries, Elizabeth grows suspicious of Darcy, through actions and clues she becomes privy to over several months. As she becomes acquainted with Darcy’s various friends and family members, her uncertainty continues to grow; yet, then again, so does her love for him. While their friendship and respect for each other also continue to increase, and their unmistakable passion forges an even deeper bond between them, deception and miscommunications threaten their ultimate happiness as a married couple.
It’s at this point where Elizabeth has her “Hunsford moment” and fights to save her dignity and self-respect. Believing no more that she has been treated fairly and respectfully by Darcy, she decides to take matters into her own hands. Yet, just like in “Pride and Prejudice,” it turns out that she is not the all-knowing person she believes that she is, and upon further reflection, some difficult truths come crashing her way. Now that she has uncovered the secrets that Darcy has been guarding, causing them both to suffer the terrible consequences of keeping these secrets, can Elizabeth and Darcy ever really have more than a marriage of convenience?
“Suddenly Mrs. Darcy,” does a great job telling the story of “Pride and Prejudice” through a variation that allows us to imagine the consequences and results of Elizabeth being married to Darcy before the events at Hunsford ever took place in their relationship. Here, in “Suddenly Mrs. Darcy,” from the very beginning of their marriage, Darcy is still the proud and haughty man, who has yet to be humbled through Elizabeth’s refusal of marriage to him. Therefore, he hasn’t been given the opportunity to reflect upon the arguments that Elizabeth cites through the setdown provided by her during the Hunsford proposal, when she explains why he’s the last man in the world that she could ever be prevailed upon to marry. Ms. James does a wonderful job capturing this Darcy and Elizabeth, early in their marriage and allowing them both the time and space to grow some humility and self awareness regarding their own actions and beliefs.
The added layers provided throughout the story, with the addition of the new characters and their connections to Darcy, added a new dimension of possibilities to the Darcy family history. I enjoy when writers take some liberties with Darcy’s parents’ own relationship, to help fill in more of the blanks regarding their lives together, because in “Pride and Prejudice,” so few details are shared about them. These details allow us to understand the circumstances that helped shape Darcy’s complex character and his behaviors.
Ultimately too, this variation connects themes found in Austen’s book, especially one which specifically deals with the idea that one type of family is to be valued by members of society, over another type of family. Here, we are reminded that station and wealth alone do not define a person’s worth or sensibilities. I have always believed this is one of Austen’s most significant statements, regarding not only the characters she created, but also pertaining to how she believed people in general should be viewed in life. Ms. James’ story helps us come to learn these lessons in a variation that’s original, gripping and filled with passion. It’s a variation I’m sure I’ll reread several more times.